Tips for helping your fall garden grow

We are fast approaching old man Winter and leaving behind the beauty of the fall. With the onset of heavy rains, it is not too late if you are a garden enthusiast in North County to get your autumn vegetables planted and planned for the season.
San Diego is blessed with a temperate weather that allows for two to three crops of vegetables to be harvested each year. Gardeners need only be aware of the specific types of fall weather vegetables. These include: beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cress, chard, endive, escarole, garlic (one of my favorite), kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens onions, parsley, peas, potatoes, radishes, shallots, spinach, turnips and many more.
An autumn garden in North County means growing veggies that thrive in warm fall daytime temperatures and cool evenings. The weeds grow much slower (if at all) this time of year and water — usually a premium during the summer — is in generous supply due to the frequency of more consistent precipitation. Insects, the summer gardener’s bane, slow down their activities during these cooler months. Some disappear until the warmer months of spring.
The hot tip for any beginner starting out a fall garden is to follow the simple rule “less is more.” Don’t bite off more than you can chew while planting your first garden. Raised containers, typically old oak wine barrels cut in half, are perfect planters for a good draining garden, which is so important to good veggie health during the heavy rains in the winter.
Many people worry about the soils they need to grow a good crop. Typically, good soils should consist of four parts. Minerals (soils), organics, air and water. A good rule of thumb is a mix of about 5 to 7 percent organics combined with the particulate soils matter (mineral). The other constituent of good soil is open space found within the strata, shared evenly between air and water.
The role of these soils is to supply the autumn veggies with nutrients. By top dressing, the organics hold moisture below grade during the warm Santa Anas, allow for good oxygenation and drainage during inclement weather, and provide a suitable ecosystem for beneficial biology such as nitrogen fixing bacteria and earth worms all doing the gardeners work below grade.
The secret to good soils is to use a mixture of different organics when building them. Nature will soon due the rest. Peat moss or recycled clean greens are a great body builder to your soils. Sandy soils combined with these organics to create open space in the matrix are then augmented with bone meal, or other organic fertilizers like bat guano or fish emulsion.
Bt is an excellent biological insecticide that helps prevent cutworms or cabbage worms and won’t harm other beneficial organisms. Add a final balanced vegetable fertilizer, 10-10-10 and the mix should be ready to plant. One of my favorite tricks to rid the garden of snails is to place some open newspaper in the garden and saturate it with water. The snails will nestle into it during the late morning to prevent drying out in the sun. When they do, you simple pick up the paper and throw them away.
Typically, most of the plants mentioned above will come from seed. However, many such as broccoli, cabbage, celery and onions are available as juvenile plants from local nurseries and will save you about six weeks of growing time after installation. Most autumn crops except for radishes take a little longer to grow. Because of the cooler evenings, it usually takes about 60 to 90 days before the harvest can begin.
Irrigation for your new fall garden (especially for delicate new seedlings) is best done with a gentle spray. Drip irrigation will work here and small vari jet sprays on thin risers above the garden will deliver just the right amount of moisture for this application.
One good tip to remember is that the sun is not quite as intense during the autumn months making it very important that your garden not be shaded during the day. Place your garden where it can receive a full days’ kiss from the sun. Your plants will thank you.

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